Want to know how to write an introduction/background section of a paper? Pay attention to STRUCTURE & evidence-based ARGUMENT in order to DIY (do-it-yourself) your own intro/background for a school paper or research report!
Let’s use this 2015 free full-text article by Marie Flem Sørbø et al. as a model! Past and recent abuse is associated with early cessation of breast feeding: results from a large prospective cohort in Norway . (Hint: Clicking on the article’s pdf tab may make it easier to read.)
Focus only on the INTRO/BACKGROUND section for now. Check out the STRUCTURE then the EVIDENCE-BASED ARGUMENT of the Intro/Background. This is how you should write your own.
STRUCTURE of INTRO/BACKGROUND in Sørbø et al. (2015):
- Where is the Intro/Background section located in the article?
- What heading is used for the section?
- Where are the research questions located in the Intro/Background? (HINT: this is the standard place in all papers & in this case the authors call them “aims.)
ARGUMENTS in INTRO/BACKGROUND in Sørbø et al. (2015):
- Look at the first (topic) sentence of each paragraph in INTRO/BACKGROUND & listen to the systematic argument the researchers are making for WHY their study is important.
- “Breast feeding has long been acknowledged as the optimal infant nutrition conferring beneficial short-term and long-term health effects for both infants and mothers.1–5 …
- Abuse of women is common worldwide, as one in three women during lifetime suffer partner or non-partner abuse.10 …Adverse effects [of abuse]… are barriers to breast feeding.*…
- Given the overwhelming evidence of the positive effects of breast feeding, knowledge about factors influencing breastfeeding behaviour is essential….
- We explored the impact of abuse of women on breastfeeding behaviour in a large prospective population in Norway where the expectations to breast feed are high, and breast feeding is facilitated in the work regulations….” (pp. 1-2)
- Now look at the research & other evidence written down AFTER each of above key sentences that SUPPORT each idea.
- Notice that the INTRO/BACKGROUND is NOT a series of abstracts of different studies!! Instead evidence is grouped into key arguments for the study: Breast feeding is best, Abuse is common, Abuse creates barriers to breastfeeding, & Therefore, knowing about factors affecting breastfeeding is important). [Note: Of course, if your particular professor or editor asks you to do a series of abstracts, then you must, but do group them in arguments like the topic sentences.]
All this leads naturally, logically to …(drum roll please!)…the research questions/hypotheses, which are the gaps in our knowledge that the research will fill. This sets up the rest of the research article!
Critical Thinking: Your turn! Write your own Intro/Background using
- Structure: Placement in article, heading, placement of research question/hypothesis
- Argument: Key idea topic sentences (make a list 1st) with supporting research & other evidence (your literature review).
For more info on Intro/Background: Review my blogpost Intro to Intro’s
*ok, yeh. I cheated and included one additional sentence to capture the authors’ flow of argument.